The operator of a Harlan County mine where five miners were killed is agreeing to pay more than $300,000 in fines.
Darby LLC has to give MSHA the money later this month.
Loved ones left behind say it shouldn't stay with the government.
WYMT’s Jeff Allen talked to Melissa Lee, who lost her husband Jimmy in the 2006 explosion.
She says her two young sons who lost their father, along with other children left behind, should get the money for their education.
Melissa Lee says her six year old son Seth often thinks of his father Jimmy.
“When he sees rays of sunshine come through the trees like here in the backyard he says that's my daddy looking down on me,” Melissa Lee said.
Before Seth and 4 year old Ross were even born, Jimmy Lee talked about where he wanted his children to go to school.
“Jimmy said he would love the idea of them having a Christian education,” Melissa Lee said.
Melissa Lee has followed through with her late husband's wishes.
The boys are going to the Gateway Christian School in Middlesboro.
She wonders how much longer she'll be able to pay the private school tuition.
“I would love for MSHA to award the families the funds. Divide it equally and give it to the children for educational purposes for tuition, college,” Lee said.
The attorney representing 4 out of the 5 widows of miners killed at Darby, and the lone survivor Paul Ledford, wrote a letter to MSHA last week urging the agency to give the money to the families.
MSHA has not responded to the letter and we were not able to reach them by phone Wednesday.
“Why not give it back to the ones it was taken away from. If their father was still alive he'd be able to financially take care of their tuition,” Lee said.
But even though he's not still here, Melissa Lee would like to see her late husband's wishes for their children carried out.
A spokes person from MSHA e-mailed us a statement just moments ago saying:
“MSHA's authority to collect civil penalties from mine operators for safety and health violations is set out in the mine act. When a mine operator pays its civil fines, the monies go directly to the U.S. Treasury. MSHA has no statutory power to direct disbursement of these funds elsewhere. The precedent cited by Mr. Oppegard involved a plea agreement in a criminal case."
We also tried to reach the operator of the Darby Mine and his attorney but did not hear back from them on Wednesday.
The mine has until October 19th to pay the $342,000, but it's still unclear where that money will go.